He takes over from head of press and PR Camilla Nicholls, who left the company after a 12 year stint late last year to launch her own PR consultancy, Camilla Nicholls Associates. She now counts GNL among her clients.
Williams' remit is wider than that of Nicholls, and sees him take control of the company's press relations, public affairs work and internal communications.
The increased status of the role is reflected in the director title and the fact that Williams will now sit on the GNL executive board.
He joins from ITV franchise-holding company Carlton Communications, where he has been director of corporate affairs since January 2001. In that role, formerly held by Conservative MP for Witney (Oxon) David Cameron, he ran corporate PR, government and public affairs, City relations and internal comms. He reported to chairman Michael Green and CEO Gerry Murphy.
His career began as a reporter on local newspapers before he joined the BBC graduate trainee scheme.
He spent seven years as a film and studio director on programmes such as Newsnight, Inside Story, Film 90, Film 91 and Crimewatch UK before going on to produce GMTV's Sunday programme, presented by Alastair Stewart.
An active campaigner for independent TV producers, Williams has served as both CEO and deputy CEO of the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT). He has also sat on a raft of industry bodies on issues such as training and export promotion.
Carlton, which this week faced a fresh legal threat from the Football League in the wake of the collapse of part-owned joint venture and broadcast rights-holder ITV Digital, has begun the hunt for a successor to Williams. The firm yet to make a formal announcement on the issue, however.